The Silver Bow Creek watershed in southwest Montana encompasses approximately 474 square miles and forms a portion of the headwaters of the Clark Fork River and ultimately, the Columbia River (Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, 2009). The site covers about 26 miles of stream and stream side habitat. Silver Bow Creek was used as a conduit for mining, smelting, industrial and municipal wastes for more than a hundred years (Weitz, Luxenberg). Rather large amounts of mine tailings deposits are found along the creek. These deposits contain elevated levels of metals and have been dispersed over the entire flood plain (Weitz, Luxenberg).
Silver bow creek and the Summit Valley have not always been a site of pollution and contaminated mining sites. The Summit Valley was inhabited by Native American Indians from the Salish, Kootenai, and Flathead tribes (Clark Fork Watershed Education Program). Long before European miners discovered gold in the Butte Area on Silver Bow Creek these tribes used the area of the entire upper Clark Fork valley for seasonal hunting and fishing grounds. Later, the area was also used as a passage route for Nez Perce and Blackfeet Indians (Clark Fork Watershed Education Program). The Original Mine claim was staked on Butte hill because its owners found diggings and pits with antler tools and exposed ore rock.
The dominant land use has historically been mining, with minor amounts of agriculture and tourism (Montana Natural Resource Damage Program). In